When Bones first introduced Booth’s grandfather Hank – played by the talented Ralph Waite – the case revolved around a club that catered to a particular sex fetish. Back in season 4, when his brother Jared (Brendan Fehr) was introduced, it was all about a conman. So it only seems fitting that the episode where Booth’s mother comes to town features a stock broker who’s running a stock scam and is a male stripper on the side.
In terms of the case work, the show returns yet again to the formula of forgettable victim whose profession allows for some giggles and antics in the lab but whose life is so banal there aren’t many to mourn the loss. This time the audience and Cam (Tamara Taylor) are given front row seats to a faux strip-tease between Angela (Michaela Conlin) and Hodgins (TJ Thyne), and meanwhile Booth (David Boreanaz) is mistaken for a stripper when the pair go to interview a suspect. We also discover that Brennan (Emily Deschanel) once wrote a grad school paper on stripping that included immersing herself in that culture as a stripper for research purposes.
Also par for the course with Bones is that “The Party in the Pants” is less about the case and more about the main characters. This time it’s David Boreanaz’s moment in the spotlight and, as is his usual, he rises to the occasion quite nicely and with great depth and range of feeling. First, he is the optimistic, glass-half-full Booth who shunts his own feelings for the sake of others’ and he welcomes his mom with open arms. Amusing anecdotes abound along with smiles and hugs abound for a bit, but when Mama Booth drops the news that she ran away only to stay and help raise another man’s kids it all hits the fan.
Boreanaz does a good job of going from happy and forgiving to cold and distant in a fraction of a second. He’s uptight and cagey all through the episode, which tracks with the way his character has dealt with change over the course of the series. He also moves seamlessly from a guy glad to finally have his mom back; to the petulant, hurt little boy who was abandoned in an abusive home; to a grown man trying to do the hard thing and forgive. He may be grinning during the wedding montage but there is still a sense that it’s bittersweet.
And then there’s Brennan. Some viewers may roll their eyes at the all too familiar bluntness with which the forensic anthropologist tackles the issue of Marianne’s return. At the crime scene she questions Booth’s glee and tosses around the word “abandoned” quite freely. She’s also very straightforward when she meets Marianne for the first time, immediately pointing out the abuse Marianne suffered at the hands of Booth’s dad. This could be misconstrued as harsh until its remembered that Brennan herself was abandoned by her parents, and the look in her eyes when she declares Booth to be the strongest man she knows suggests she’s being more protective of him than anything else.
All in all Brennan and Sweets (John Francis Daley) prove to be a great support system for Booth throughout. They question his glibness at his mother’s sudden return while allowing him to be happy. When that dissolves and his anger comes to the surface they don’t allow him to stew in his own emotional juices. Daley and Boreanaz have a great scene together in the coffee room where Booth is finally able to confess he’s not doing well.
Even more powerful is the writing and acting in a scene between Boreanaz and Deschanel outside the Royal Diner. It’s this scene that makes the flimsy case and goofy antics immaterial in light of the strength of the human story going on. The writers do well to have Brennan remind Booth about his own advice when she was reunited with Max (Ryan O’Neal) in season 2. The honesty of her emotions is real and her analysis of the religion that is so important to Booth is spot on. There’s something beautiful and poetic about her being able to comfort and encourage him because of the support he’s taught her over the years. Now the only question remains: is a wedding in their future since she’s the one who caught the bouquet?
Bones returns next Mondays for its season 8 finale, ”The Pathos in the Pathogens”, @8 on Fox.